The art of the manager has become underappreciated in the wrestling world. Not every talent can cut the best promos or bring the character work that can captivate an audience. Managers have been around for years and are supposed to make up for any weaknesses a performer has. There are various forms of managers. Most large wrestlers struggle with talking or showing charisma. Various managers have been given the task of cutting promos for them. A cowardly personality having an intimidating wrestler doing the physical work to allow them to run their mouth just makes sense on both sides for each performer.
There are also valets. Many of the most charismatic women in the business have not been gifted with the athletic ability to bring it in the ring. Romantic storylines or traditional manager roles have given them the role of helping wrestlers in need of an extra oomph to get over with the audience. Sadly, not all combinations can work out. Much like any other pairing in wrestling, a wrestler and manager have to be on the same page and show chemistry. We have seen many tales of entertaining managers outshining or overpowering the in-ring performer. Let’s take a look at the most memorable occasions with the top 15 times a manager stole the thunder of a wrestler.
15 Paul Heyman and Ryback
WWE had high hopes for Ryback and the debut of his character led to an undefeated streak. The dream was for Ryback to become a beloved babyface and the face of the company by this time. Instead, he has failed constantly to the point of requesting his release. Ryback’s first big character change came when he turned heel by attacking CM Punk and aligning with Paul Heyman. WWE started selling “Paul Heyman Guy” t-shirts and his value skyrocketed as a manager.
Ryback tried to tap into the hatred developed by fans, but it just didn’t work. Heyman was known most for being Brock Lesnar’s advocate. Any other wrestlers paired with him would suffer from the same lack of importance. The benefit of having Heyman cut promos should make up for the wrestler’s flaws but it actually just made Heyman stand out more. Ryback turned into an afterthought teaming with Curtis Axel and everyone just looked at him as Heyman’s lackey.
14 Paul Ellering And The Authors Of Pain
A recent instance of a manager stealing the thunder of wrestlers would be NXT’s introduction of The Authors of Pain. The two physically intimidating beasts dominated Chad Gable and Jason Jordan to the dismay of the crowd. Instead of the action being the main story, legendary manager Paul Ellering made his way to the ramp to show he was aligned with the new duo. Ellering is most known for managing The Legion of Doom, regarded as the best tag team of all time.
Sunny Dhinsa and Gzim Selmani definitely need a manager to help get them over and make up for their weaknesses. The choice of Ellering is perplexing considering he is not very vocal and still takes attention away from them. A legend returning after over fifteen years away from WWE TV became the biggest takeaway, overshadowing the two new talents debuting. Ellering could help them, but for now, he’s taking away from their chances at building momentum.
13 Lana and Dolph Ziggler
WWE rarely does romantic storylines right and it often turns into a huge mess. The perfect example of this was the 2015 storyline between Rusev, Lana, Dolph Ziggler and Summer Rae. Lana turned face by ditching her boyfriend Rusev and standing up for herself. Things took a big turn when she started dating and managing Ziggler. The pairing had as much chemistry as a marching band and a library. Lana looked foolish in denim jean jackets, but still was the star of the duo.
Ziggler’s career took a big downturn as fans chanted for Lana during his matches rather than support him for his in-ring talent. The storyline hurt everyone involved but Ziggler suffered the most. Fans once viewed him as a potential World Champion but he was relegated to a mid card comedy filler. Many still don’t view him as credible during his new main event push on SmackDown due to the damage done last year and being positioned as secondary to Lana.
12 Jim Cornette and Dan Severn
Dan Severn made history in the 90s as the first and only man to hold World Championships in both pro wrestling and UFC. The legitimate MMA fighter tried his hand at pro wrestling and achieved moderate success. Severn captured the NWA Championship and made his WWE debut as part of a forgettable invasion angle. The NWA talent feuded with WWE lower card acts and became an afterthought during The Attitude Era.
Instead of being positioned as an unbeatable badass, Severn basically held a spot and did nothing of importance. Part of the issue was he seemed like a mute due to manager Jim Cornette doing all of the talking for his character. Cornette went into his entertaining shtick while Severn just stood there, showing no emotion whatsoever. Sometimes putting talents of different skill sets just makes the flaws stand out more rather than hide them. Severn’s big chance in the WWE sunk before it could get going and Cornette stealing the spotlight is one of many reasons why.
11 Bobby Heenan and Lex Luger
The debut of Lex Luger in the WWE came with great hype after years of main event work in WCW. WWE hoped Luger would become a major player in the future of the company. Luger’s introduction came with Bobby Heenan unveiling him as “The Narcissist.” Heenan talked about how great Luger was while Luger stared into a mirror flexing and admiring himself. The promo work from Heenan was so entertaining that it stole the segment.
Heenan’s association with Luger was for Luger to enter a feud with Heenan’s enemy, Mr. Perfect. They didn’t have a long relationship, but the short stint proved Heenan was the star of the pairing. Fans were more compelled by his over the top heel work and it stole the thunder from Luger’s first ever moment on WWE television. His lack of talent would later go on to make Luger’s tenure in WWE a complete failure, but the first moment with Heenan definitely didn’t help him.
10 Torrie Wilson and Carlito
Torrie Wilson was a hot commodity and held value in the WWE, but she just couldn’t wrestle. Wilson has admitted she wasn’t good at wrestling and preferred to do anything but have matches. WWE struggled to find roles for her and at one point made her the manager of Carlito. Things were trending downwards for Carlito after declining and showing little of the potential he once held. Many criticized Carlito for being lazy and having no motivation, so adding a valet was the way to humble him.
The pairing was a disaster and they had no chemistry. Wilson typically just stood ringside and smiled while Carlito went through the motions in the ring. Fans cared more about Torrie and that caused Carlito to see his career go down the drain after failing to get over with her.
9 Zeb Colter and Alberto Del Rio
The return of Alberto Del Rio in 2015 was a huge moment for the WWE. Del Rio saw his contract terminated for slapping a backstage employee who made racially insensitive comments about him. WWE brought him back with a big contract and had him cleanly defeat John Cena to win the United States Championship. Things appeared to be going perfectly for Del Rio, but having Zeb Colter as his manager damaged his chances at success.
An old man with a cartoonish beard coming to the ring on a mobility scooter tends to take away from the performer he manages. Colter cut anti-American promos and the fans lost interest in everything related to Del Rio within a week or two. Del Rio has yet to rebound and is rumored to be leaving the company again when his contract expires at the end of the year. You have to wonder if things would be different if Colter didn’t steal his thunder and destroy his interest level.
8 Maryse and Ted DiBiase Jr.
WWE had high expectations for Ted DiBiase Jr. to follow in the footsteps of his father, as one of the top stars in the company. DiBiase Jr. played a huge role in the Legacy stable with Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes gaining him credibility. The company hoped he would be the breakout star following the breaking up of the faction, but their wishes would not be fulfilled.
DiBiase Jr. tried various managers and bodyguards until Maryse emerged as his full-time valet. The character work of Maryse always delivered and she played the classic gold-digging heel character to the rich DiBiase Jr. They initially showed promise, but Maryse started to outshine him as a heel. Fans just didn’t care for the next generation DiBiase as a singles performer and that led to Maryse commanding all of the attention until they split. DiBiase would fall out of favor with the WWE and choose to leave the business shortly after.
7 Ric Flair and Charlotte
Charlotte is one of the better women’s wrestling stars in recent memory with unbelievable athleticism and a star quality. She just happens to be the daughter of Ric Flair and that can actually hurt her at times. WWE offering her an opportunity as the daughter of a legendary performer was a positive, but getting paired with him on television proved negatives were associated with the relationship as well.
Instead of getting acclimated as a star on her own, Charlotte had to live in the shadow of her father when Ric was made her manager. His theatrics and antics could never be turned down and it ended up becoming a hindrance to Charlotte. Everyone wanted to woo and laugh at Ric instead of taking Charlotte’s matches seriously. WWE realized it and had her turn on him to get back on track as an elite heel. Things have improved for Charlotte since she ditched Ric.
6 Jimmy Hart and Meng
Jimmy Hart is typically remembered for his association with Hulk Hogan, but he was a talented manager without the star power backing him up. Hart arrived in WCW with Hogan, but moved on to other wrestlers who were also in need of a manager. The Giant benefited from Hart doing all of the talking, but that didn’t work for all of the wrestlers. Meng specifically saw his potential squandered in WCW despite having Hart by his side.
Hart’s loud personality didn’t fit well with Meng’s intense style. The appeal of Meng was that he could easily kill anyone with his bare hands. No one wanted to fight Meng in real life and that should have been added to his credibility in the ring. Hart’s comedic presence took away from what Meng should have accomplished and just stole his thunder. Meng would have been much better off without and Hart could have done more with other talents more suitable for his strengths.
5 Stacy Keibler and Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner became one of the final singles main event stars created in WCW before the company was bought by Vince McMahon. The value for Big Poppa Pump was at an all-time high and he signed for big money with the WWE. Steiner instantly flopped during a horrendous feud with Triple H, but still held some potential as an upper mid-card face. WWE aligned him with manager Stacy Keibler during a feud with her jealous ex-boyfriend Test.
The pairing made sense on paper with Steiner’s gimmick as a ladies man and Keibler needing a talent to have a storyline with. Of course, one big problem came to fruition to destroy any chances at success. Everyone cared more about Keibler and could not give a damn about Steiner. Most would spend the Steiner's matches staring at Stacy. The most interesting thing he did was hold the ropes for Keibler’s memorable entrance. Steiner would once again flop and find his way out of the company shortly after.
4 Jim Cornette and Vader
One of the manager/wrestling relationships that should have been perfect was Jim Cornette and Vader. Cornette was one of the greatest managers of all time and possessed a natural heel personality that many would trade an arm for. Vader was one of the most intense and entertaining big men in the ring, but lacked the microphone skills to be the kind of all-around performer WWE wants out of their talents. They were put together to make Vader a star, but it just didn’t work.
Cornette’s entertainment value stood out much more than Vader’s great wrestling. That era of wrestling required enough of a personality to at least keep up with the managers in conversations. Owen Hart perfectly engaged in banter with Cornette and knew how to react with a witty one liner or humorous facial expression. Vader didn’t have that gift and appeared second rate next to Cornette. The excellence of Cornette made him the star rather than the wrestler in this scenario.
3 James Mitchell and Judas Mesias
James Mitchell is perhaps the most underrated wrestling manager of the past twenty years. Despite never working for the WWE, Mitchell found a way to create a legacy helping wrestlers in need of a strong personality. His body of work in ECW and TNA made Mitchell a big star due to his combination of mystery, horror and intrigue. Mitchell’s best work in TNA came with Abyss as his monster, similar to Paul Bearer and Kane.
The two would split with Abyss eventually having to turn face due to fan support. Mitchell remained heel and introduced his new monster, Judas Mesias. Mesias' work was quite impressive in Mexico and TNA had high hopes for him. Mesias couldn’t get over and Mitchell’s excellence outshined him in every way. The feud was viewed as Abyss vs. Mitchell and Mesias was just a scary looking dude taking bumps in barbed wire. Mitchell shined a little too bright, leaving Mesias behind.
2 Tammy Sytch and Chris Candido
Tammy Sytch and Chris Candido mixed business with pleasure when entering the wrestling industry. WWE signed them together and put them in The Bodydonnas gimmick with Sytch as Sunny and Candido as Skip. Sunny ascended to new heights as one of the most popular female performers in the business. Fans gravitated towards Sytch for her stunning beauty and strong personality. It sadly came at the expensive of Candido’s talent.
The late Candido is still remembered fondly as one of the most underrated in-ring workers of his time. Candido could have a good match with anyone if you gave him enough time and freedom to pull it off. Sadly, he was just viewed as Sytch’s boyfriend to most major wrestling companies. Sytch definitely carried more value for her star power, but Candido had something to contribute as well. WWE and WCW never allowed it and he became lost in the spotlight of Sytch.
1 Paul Heyman and Cesaro
The worst case of a manager stealing the thunder of a talent is a recent case no one could have predicted. Cesaro appeared to be on the rise after turning face at WrestleMania XXX, leaving Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter before going on to win the first ever Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. The crowd erupted and showed optimism for a new star being born. Cesaro’s fortunes would change the following night.
Paul Heyman named Cesaro the latest “Paul Heyman Guy” on the Raw after WrestleMania. The pairing seemed perfect on paper but the major issue is it forced Cesaro to go back to the heel role and sacrifice his organic face turn. To make matters worse, Heyman had to cut promos every week about Brock Lesnar ending The Undertaker’s undefeated WrestleMania streak. Cesaro became a secondary wrestler to both Heyman’s personality and the ghost of Lesnar. The downward spiral began and Cesaro has yet to get back to this stage following the disaster.